Flunked, for the first time

Flying - - CONTENTS - By Dick Karl

“You have had full nee­dle de­flec­tion twice on this ap­proach,” he ex­plained. I was dumb­founded. I had not seen full nee­dle de­flec­tion — not once and cer­tainly not twice. It was a cou­pled ap­proach. The au­topi­lot had re­mained on task. The air­plane had per­formed as I would have ex­pected. I had seen ex­actly this sce­nario many times while fly­ing Part 135. What hap­pened?

If you look back at any ad­verse event crit­i­cally enough, you will see that the events that led up to the fail­ure are easy to trace — in hind­sight. So it was with this, my first test fail­ure. It be­gan with my de­ci­sion to get a type rat­ing in a Premier 1 in the air­plane rather than in a sim­u­la­tor. As chron­i­cled pre­vi­ously in these pages, my wife, Cathy, and I had re­cently de­cided to go all in and buy a jet for the last years of my fly­ing ca­reer. It had been a dream and hope of mine for as long as I have had mem­ory.

The “in-air­plane” type rat­ing had ap­peal: I would learn in my air­plane, hear the ac­tual sounds and feel the ac­tual seat-of-pants forces. I had learned to fly a pre­vi­ously owned Cessna 340 and a Piper Cheyenne this way. The cost was $15,000 for the train­ing and check ride. This sounded like a bar­gain com­pared to sim­u­la­tor train­ing, which costs al­most twice as much for a com­plete course and check ride. I brushed by the fact that in-air­plane train­ing in a Premier costs about $2,000 per flight hour. When all was said and done, I would have been bet­ter off go­ing to FlightSafety.

Two days of ground school were tu­tored one-on-one by a highly knowl­edge­able in­struc­tor, an em­ployee of the train­ing com­pany. Af­ter that, the com­pany ar­ranged for the in­struc­tor to fly com­mer­cially to Wi­chita, Kansas, to pick up the newly pur­chased dream air­plane and fly it with me to my home base in Le­banon, New Hamp­shire. My in-air­plane in­struc­tion would start with real-world ex­pe­ri­ence.

We took off one splen­did Septem­ber

“Richard, you have failed this por­tion of the check ride. You will not be get­ting a type rat­ing to­day.” My first thought was the des­ig­nated ex­am­iner had made a mis­take.

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